[Jan 29]--Words of Comfort

Isaiah 40:1-5

             I guess it’s a sign of conceit, but I’ll do it anyway. Do any of you out there actually care what my favorite Bible passages are? If you’ve read for a while, you know that my favorite book of the Bible is Romans, and my favorite of the Old Testament is Proverbs. Why? What’s my criterion? I’ve given this some thought, and I suppose it could be summed up in one word: completeness. I love them so much because they cover a range of subjects. You’ll find no better and more thorough explanation of our salvation than in the book of Romans. You’d be hard pressed to find a subject in Proverbs that isn’t at least touched upon in Proverbs: love, money, marriage, work, raising children, life, death, and especially what we need to know about the Lord.

            That’s why I love the book of Isaiah so much. He runs the gamut of emotions and subjects, and there’s no prophet that tells us more about our Savior (both in his first and second comings) than the son of Amoz. And that’s why I’m really excited about this particular chapter of Isaiah. It’s really complete. It tells us a lot about our Savior God.

            Before we get to it, let’s address an issue that you might encounter out there. It’s conventional wisdom among a lot of biblical scholars that one man didn’t write the entire book of Isaiah. They point to a harsh shift of mood as their first piece of evidence. I’ve mentioned this before: The first 39 chapter of the book (with a few exceptions) are mostly focused on God’s judgment on sin. The last 27 chapters (with a few exceptions) are mostly focused on God’s ultimate redemption.

            Let me answer that objection with a simple question: Who do you think is the best interpreter of Scripture? A guy who has some degrees behind his name who doesn’t really think the Bible is literally true? Or the writers of the Gospels? Seriously. Because personally I think I'd take their interpretation over anyone else’s. If you don’t take them to be authoritative, then that’s another issue. But they quoted from both “divisions” of the book, and as far as they were concerned, there was one man who was the author of the book that bears his name.

            But let’s actually look at the beginning of the chapter, shall we? The first 39 chapters are warning Judah about the coming Babylonian invasion and exile. The remaining chapters talk as if the exile has already happened, even though they wouldn’t occur for about 85 years after he died.

            So what’s the Lord’s main message for his people while they were in exile? Remember the main job of a prophet (and pastor): Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.  Speaking to the future generation in exile, the Lord tells his messenger to “Comfort my people.” Let them know that their time of punishment has an ending, and that ending is closer than they think.

            Do verses 2-3 sound familiar to you? They should. They were partially fulfilled in Isaiah’s ministry, but they'd be completely fulfilled in the service of John the Baptist. His purpose in life, his reason for existence, was to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. That was John’s (and Isaiah’s) breath, water, and food.

            They were royal heralds. A herald arrived weeks or months in advance of the arriving king. He told people to get ready for the king’s arrival. If there were rocks or trees on the highway, they were removed. Streets were swept, trash hauled away, and everything was “spruced up” as much as possible so that when the king arrived on his inspection or tour, everything looked as nice as they could get it.

            That’s what vss. 3-4 are talking about. This “raising of the valleys” and “lowering of the mountains” is not something that Jesus does when he comes again. This is something that God’s people were expected to do before he arrived.

            Now we need some discernment here. Verse 5 is not saying that he’s not going to arrive until we sweep the streets and get everything ready. He’s coming at his appointed time whether we’re ready or not.

            You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? The King is coming for his inspection, whether you’re ready or not. Consider this your John the Baptist/Isaiah the prophet wake-up-call.

            But I’d like to end on a positive note if I may. One way or another, all mankind will see the glory of the Lord.  They might see it reflected in the Message of the Good News. They might see it in the image of Christ reflected (however imperfectly) in his Church. All of redeemed humanity will one day see his glory when he returns. And the rest will see his glory as reflected in his judgment. When will you see it?

Lord Jesus, please fill me with your glory. Please help me to be the messenger I need to be. I want to accurately and faithfully represent my Savior to the world. Any rough areas or obstacles to your work in my life? Get rid of them. Yes, let's.

No comments:

Post a Comment